Digitech RP255

Sunday, June 13, 2010| by Will Chen

Digitech originally released their revamped RP series around 2006 serving up an enhanced modeling engine which first appeared in their GNX Workstation Processors. Their new Audio DNA2 processor promised four times the power of the previous generation matching their powerhouse GNX3000’s processor power in an extremely compact floor unit. The new line was actually a short lived beta test of sorts as Digitech almost immediately released their RPX55 series with an expanded palette of modeled effects and onboard looping.

The RP255 is in the mid range of the new RP line and is the second most affordable unit which includes a built in expression pedal. Additional footswitches include a basic up and down pair allowing a user to toggle through patches with their feet. As with many effects units with a similar layout, both pedals can be depressed simultaneously to bypass the unit and if the pedals are held down for a second or so the unit enters its tuner mode. Digitech claims a “true hardwire” bypass (relay controlled?).

The face of the unit features 4 knobs and Digitech’s familiar matrix layout which makes programming effects very intuitive providing a slightly easier interface than menu driven. Ins and outs are on located along the back edge where you’d expect to find them and include individual left and right ¼” output jacks, ¼” guitar input, 1/8” headphone output , 1/8” aux input, and 2X2 USB jack…not to shabby for such an affordable device.

Digitech has loaded the RP255 with a vast array of stompbox, amp, and effect models which really run the gamut and will keep the experimental guitarist busy for a long time. One area where Digitech has greatly improved their units is actually modeling the control layout for all the modeled stomps and effects. They don’t always react exactly like their real world counterparts often serving up a touch more gain or wider sweeps than the originals have/had in my humble opinion. However, that’s being a bit nitpicky as over all Digitech has done an absolutely excellent job of capturing the essence of a great many classic pedals. The Tubescreamer and Rat, two pedals I’m pretty familiar with, sound very close to the originals, the slightly tighter low end of the modeled Rat versus its real world counterpart may actually sound better. There’s no doubt in my mind that the included DS-1 model sounds better than the actual pedal!

The modulation section of the RP255 perhaps provides the most impressive sounding effects of the whole unit. Everything included has a tonal depth and warmth which will fool pretty much anyone into thinking you’ve got some sweet, vintage effects at your toes.

 

I feel slightly different about the amps. Don’t get me wrong, many of them sound very, very good with an extremely realistic and dynamically responsive tone. Though as they’ve gone through so much trouble to model the control layout of classic stompboxes and effects, I can’t help but feel a bit cheated that Digitech has instead opted to provide only gain and volume control. Fortunately, the latest RP series does have a tonal improvement over the previous and Digitech has done a good job capturing the sweet spot for many of the modeling amps which are totally usable without any additional eq. For additional tonal shaping the semi parametric EQ section provides sweep-able midrange and treble frequencies and the variety of cabinet models provide a wide range of tones. However, when dialing in an amp tones I don’t really want to be bothered trying to dial in a specific frequency when the relative sharpness of the boost/cut can’t be controlled, the EQ implementation just seems a like a half a great idea leaving me wanting either a simpler EQ choice or full blown parametric. Sadly, Digitech again excluded their cabinet tuning feature of the GNX3000.

As you might expect from a swiss army knife processor, the RP255 captures some amps better than others. While the heavier side of things is decently represented (particularly nice are the custom Digitech High Gain, Metal, and Solo models), I feel the best tones from the unit are the vintage models of Fender, Vox, and Marshall amps. I really must applaud specifically their ability to get the moderately broken up grit and chime of the Vox AC30 Top Boost and the old school Marshall Plexi krang. However, I should note that the tones don’t seem to sound as good via headphones directly from the unit. That’s not to say the headphone monitored tones aren’t capable of sounding good when monitored off another device, just the headphone output seemed to be subtly fatiguing even during relatively short sessions. Running the outputs into the input of a mixer and using the mixer’s headphone out was a big improvement. Though, this may just be unique to the headphones I used (Sennheiser HD280Pro).

The modulation section of the RP255 perhaps provides the most impressive sounding effects of the whole unit. Everything included has a tonal depth and warmth which will fool pretty much anyone into thinking you’ve got some sweet, vintage effects at your toes. Fans of rotary speaker tones should really take note as the RP255’s emulation is absolutely fantastic. And the several flavors of chorus on tap are very nice and really do offer substantially different takes on the classic effect. And of course Digitech has included an impressive range of delays covering everything from old school warbled tape echoes to precision repeats. I was a bit let down by the omission of a multi tap delay though, an effect which helped put Digitech on the map back in the 80’s. Digitech has included reverbs which utilize sister company Lexicon’s algorithms and each is absolutely superb.

The unit’s built in Whammy is extremely impressive and sounds better than the Whammy II I had back in the day (talk about a tone sucker!) but the rest of the pitch effects are only moderately usable especially since they’re included in the modulation block. While the intelligent pitch shifter tracks pitches fairly well, it’s no where near the smooth sound of their previous GNX units and the output can sound a bit unstable at times with a slightly metallic edge. I would love to see an RP unit with the pitch effect stability and implementation of the GNX3000.

Now, if everything we’ve covered thus far was all the unit had to offer I’d say this was a great buy based on its price/performance ratio. But Digitech has really outdone themselves by including a 20 second looper. Using a creative combination of holding down individual pedals, the unit allows on the fly sound on sound looping. 20 seconds may not sound like a long time when many dedicated units offer hours and hours, but when you think about it it’s really more than enough to capture a verse riff and then solo over the looped playback. Very, very cool.

As good as the unit sounds with its plethora feature set, I must admit that it’s just a hair noisier than I’d like when set to unity gain and running into the front end of an amp which might be a bit of a turnoff for those looking to fit it into an existing pedal board to use in tandem with other pedals. And as with all pedals, theRP255 can only sound as good as the target it’s feeding. Don’t expect it to turn any run of the mill practice amp into a performance rig, and if your target rig is the least bit harsh the RP255 will only make things worse. However as an all in one solution run direct into a full range system or a headphone unit for quiet practicing, the Digitech RP255 is a winner.

Intro | Digitech RP255 | ZOOM G2.1nu | Head to Head | Spec Comparison

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